Council’s deputy leader calls for ‘wholesale reform’ to avoid spike in post lockdown evictions

Liberal Democrats' Mike Bell.

Liberal Democrats' Mike Bell. - Credit: Archant

North Somerset Council’s deputy leader has highlighted the need for ‘wholesale reform’ regarding tenant rights post-lockdown.

Between January and March, there were 63 property possession claims in Weston County Court.

Between January and March, there were 63 property possession claims in Weston County Court. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Mike Bell made the comment following a new report that fewer property possession claims were made at Weston Country Court leading up to the coronavirus lockdown.

According to data from the Ministry of Justice, 63 property possession claims were submitted to the county court between January and March.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick also announced on June 5 that there would be an extension to the ban on new evictions from social and private housing until the end of August – although the charity Shelter labelled this announcement merely a ‘stop-gap’.

Cllr Bell said: “This is a vital issue for many people who live in the ward I represent, Central ward, where nearly half of residents live in rented accommodation.

“I welcome the Government’s action to halt possession proceedings after pressure from Shelter, as this removed the risk of renters being turfed out at a time when the Government has been telling everyone to stay at home.

“However, there needs to be wholesale reform to give greater rights and protections to tenants.”

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The council’s deputy leader went on to give examples of changes he would like to see implemented.

Cllr Bell said: “I would like to see all landlords accept housing benefit claimants to stop discrimination against this group, as well as reforms of tenancies to encourage longer agreements to deliver confidence and sustainable arrangements for tenants.

“The average tenancy is six or 12 months at the moment, but, across the rest of Europe, the average it is closer to five years.”

He added the council would continue to help its most vulnerable tenants.

Cllr Bell added: “Where people are in rent or mortgage arrears, the council homelessness service will continue to provide support to help prevent them from becoming homeless, including liaison with landlords and lenders.

“We would encourage all landlords and lenders to support anyone who may face difficult financial circumstances at this time and where arrears exist.”